Yi Lan brings Tianjin-style halal cooking to Flushing, and if that sounds dauntingly unfamiliar, don't worry. Lovers of Sichuan food will probably feel right at home at this six-month-old restaurant a few blocks south of the downtown hub. Some high points of scoopG's recent dinner seemed like a northern Chinese take on Sichuan favorites. Ox tongue and tripe in peppery sauce was wonderfully spicy and tender, and sliced fish with hot peppers, while not "blow out your mouth spicy," could have been a Tianjin spin on water-cooked fish ("Be sure to pick out the good bits from the bottom after you’ve finished off the fish," scoop urges).
The chef-owner's family runs a halal restaurant back in Tianjin, near Beijing, and much of the food here has a distinctly northern bent. One dish, listed only in Chinese in the menu's rice and noodle section, is a unique, delicious stir-fried cake (shao1 bing3): shreds of thick wheat pancake cooked with beef, egg, carrot, and cabbage. The people's choice when scoop was there, ordered by just about everyone in the dining room, was a hot pot of mutton on the bone in hearty broth. This too appears on the menu only in Chinese (shou3 zhua1 yang2 rou4). If your Chinese is rusty, the host and server Cindy, whose English is just fine, will guide you through intriguing offerings like sautéed squid rolls and wasabi Arctic surf clams, as well as the Tianjin house specials. "There are a lot more dishes worth exploring on this menu," scoop writes.
Yi Lan [Flushing]
42-79 Main Street (near Blossom Avenue), Flushing, Queens